Saturn has 83 moons while we only have one. This seems horribly unfair, and I intend to bring it up with the Bureau of Moon Distribution. Then again, we also have humans and they don’t, so that’s a toss-up. It also seems slightly unfair that only the most popular moons receive treatment on Saturnian, as some of the smaller moons (or “moonlets,” only tens of diameters across) never get picked for the team.
Homes + atten Ash have fun with 13 moons, gracing each track with its own personality. “Dione” gallops across the sky like a wild horse. In mythology, Dione is the oracle who tends to the wounds of Aphrodite. “Daphnis” is populated by piano and watery sounds, a reflection of her job as “wavemaker moon,” her trail creating waves in Saturn’s rings. The name is fitting, as the corresponding nymph is associated with fountains and springs.
NASA calls Phoebe “one of Saturn’s most intriguing moons,” which is the NASA version of a great review on Yelp. The moon is four times further from the planet than the closest, and in the ears of Holmes + ash Atten is filled with life: chattering birds and even a hum of human choir: a reflection of projection. In contrast, “Prometheus” is a pure dance track, which is how we feel whenever we are around a fire, thanks to the god who stole it for us. (But ignore any association with the Ridley Scott movie ~ that’s a different branch of mythology.) The human chants grow more obvious, as if honoring human development past the primitive phase. In “Rhea,” the choral element resembles the worshipful output of Dead Can Dance. Rhea is the daughter of Gaia and Uranus (try to resist making a joke) and in astrological terms is forever the runner-up, Saturn’s second largest moon. Apologetically, the album offers her an earlier spot.
Janus is also known as Saturn X, which makes it sound like a straight-to-stream Vin Diesel film. We get January from Janus, the god who is always looking forward and back; and “Janus” is almost in the direct center of the album, but is pushed out by – you guessed it – that bully Titan. Titan also drives a large SUV covered with bumper stickers supporting your least favorite candidate. “Titan” extends the percussive nature of “Janus,” solidifying the tribal association. If only humans had 83 moons to worship! Then again, they would probably be obscured by light pollution by now.
The icy Enceladus has the “whitest, most reflective surface in the solar system.” A day after this album was released, scientists reported that phosphorus had been found on the moon, a possible indicator of life. (How’s that for timing?) And of course the planet would rather be known for this than for being named after a god made from the blood of a castration. Tethys is another of Gaia and Uranus’ kids – they had twelve, but were not Catholic – and the track is a brief, happy chant, like the kids at dinnertime. “Telesto” is slower but still upbeat, another nymph, who personifies success. The moon was finally found in 1980 after a long game of hide-and-seek.
Mimas (advertised as “the small moon with a big crater” to attract intergalactic tourists) turns to the ambient realm, sounding especially like space in its closing, synthetic moments. “Hyperion” is “the largest moon with an irregular shape,” although this angularity is not reflected in the track of the same name; instead, the piece is peaceful, even expansive, the music of dreamers. And finally “Iapetus,” who wins the bronze for size but is also associated with Japheth in the Torah as one of the ancestors of humankind. To close with this piece is to cement the relationship humans have always had with the stars: wondering, worshipping, wishing. Holmes + atten Ash create a sonic space for all three: an invitation to awe. With 70 moons remaining, there’s plenty of room for sequels. (Richard Allen)